The design of football trophies tends to follow the fashion of the times. Throughout the years since football was formally organised we have seen a number of “movements” in terms of both design and architecture each of which have specific design features which enable examples from these periods to be quite readily identified – at least to the trained eye.
Think in this context of the ornate mid Victorian period designs, the rather more simplistic and functional aspects of designs from the Arts & Crafts movement (later Victorian), the Art Nouveau focus on elegance (into the Edwardian period), the Art Deco period of the 1920s and 30s readily seen as stylish and forward thinking, right through to the post war designs featuring simplicity and clean lines.
The trophy we are looking at in this article represents one of these changes in popular design as we move from the high Victorian design of the NWCFL Challenge Trophy to a trophy which is hallmarked for 1910 and is clearly of that period. As suggested, much of the elaborate decoration of a typical Victorian trophy is missing on this trophy in favour of a much less cluttered appearance although the silversmith – in this case E.J. Partridge of Graham Street in the thriving jewellery quarter of Birmingham – has still managed some quite elaborate ornamentation – perhaps a nod back in the direction of a previous era and, just possibly, indicating the work of a craftsman of long standing.
The engraving on the trophy shows it to have been the Cheshire County Football League Challenge Cup and that immediately throws up a challenge in that the trophy is hallmarked for 1910 but the Cheshire County Football League was not established until 1919. So, quite who commissioned the trophy is not immediately apparent and neither is the choice of E.J. Partridge to make it as the company had no discernable history of trophy making, indeed, the company was noted for tableware. Where had the trophy been for those nine missing years?
The legend on the rear of the trophy indicates that the trophy was presented by Councillor J. Elliot of Harpurhey, Manchester and that the trophy was one of those presented to the North West Counties Football League on its formation in 1982.
There is no readily available information relating to Councillor J. Elliot of Harpurhey and, as we have seen above, the precise history of this trophy has not been established. All we do know at this stage was that Councillor Elliot does not appear on the list of officers of the Cheshire County Football League on the formation of the League in 1919.
Not for the first time in this series of articles we see a potential problem with the naming of a trophy. The trophy is clearly engraved as the Challenge Cup which, these days at least, would suggest that is was competed for in a knock out competition. Whilst there are a number of references to the League Champions of the Cheshire County League from 1919 to 1982 there are no readily accessible records for a knock out competition.
This rather then begs the question as to if this trophy was really a League Champions Trophy. Any further information on that would be appreciated but what we do know is that some of the current member clubs of the NWCFL, for example, Northwich Victoria, Skelmersdale United and Winsford United competed proudly in the Cheshire County League alongside clubs which are now represented at higher levels in the National League System such as Altrincham and Hyde United
Of more recent times – post 1982 – the first winners of this trophy in its use as League Champions v, Cup Winners were Burscough (1982/83). The trophy was competed for annually until the match was discontinued after Burscough won the trophy again in (1995/96).
The fixture was revived in 2015/16 when Colne lifted the trophy having defeated Atherton Collieries on July 29th 2016.
The current holders are City of Liverpool FC who defeated 1874 Northwich 2-1 in a match played at a very wet Bootle on Saturday July 26th 2019.